A sale is a fantastic revenue-booster and perhaps the most effective way to clear old stock. These days, as well as choosing when to launch your own sales, retailers can take advantage of a growing number of dates on which sales go nation-wide and consumer spending skyrockets.
With the rise of national (and even global) sales on the consumer calendar, date-led spending has never been more prominent. The January sales have traditionally been the time of year that retailers clear their post-Christmas surplus, but in recent years there has been a market-shift that has made the pre-Christmas sales an equally intense period of retail spending.
Taking place each year at the end of November, Black Friday, and to a lesser degree, Cyber Monday, are huge events in the retail run-up to Christmas. Originating in the U.S., Black Friday happens each year on the day after Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday takes place the following Monday. Black Friday is designed to focus on in-store sales while Cyber Monday is the day dedicated to online sales, but in the UK, both days attract massive spending both in-store and online, and many businesses launch sales that cover the whole weekend and beyond. In fact, spreading a Black Friday sale over a longer period of time can help many smaller businesses participate in the phenomenon without putting them under the pressure of a single high-volume day of sales.
In 2016, a record-breaking £5.8 billion was spent over the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the UK. While competition is undoubtedly fierce, annual sales like these are a boon to retail businesses, giving them a set number of dates when they can be confident consumers will be out in force to spend.
Whether you are preparing for your own strategic sale, or for a nationwide sale such as Black Friday or the January sales, ensure your business has the packaging and delivery solutions it needs, as well as smooth processes in place, to meet the inevitable surge in trade.
Make the most of retail sale periods by planning ahead, sourcing and stocking up on all the wholesale packaging and postal products you will need beforehand – our guide will show you how.
Preparing for sales
During a sale, it’s likely that your business will be packaging, packing and shipping a good deal more product that usual. As such, you should ensure your picking and packing process is as efficient as possible to avoid a bottle-neck effect slowing you down.
While well-organised staff are important, the packaging you choose can also play a big part in how quickly you are able to send your goods out. Wholesale packaging boxes are sent flat-packed for easy delivery and storage, but make sure you stock up on boxes that are quick and simple to assemble to help your team get your orders ready for shipping as quickly as possible. Both single and double wall cardboard boxes are available in designs that can be constructed by simply folding the bottom flaps together and taping along the join with a tape dispenser.
Where possible, opt for cost-effective packaging solutions to stop your increased shipping eating into your profits. Pricing in Proportion (PIP) boxes are ideal for sending smaller items while keeping costs down, as they are designed to fit through the 25mm slot that Royal Mail classes as a ‘Large Letter’. PIP boxes are also quick to put together, with pre-folded tabs that slot and lock in place to form the box.
Don’t be afraid to offer slower delivery options too, as many of your customers may not mind waiting slightly longer for their goods to arrive. Many consumers use national sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to stock up on Christmas gifts, so as long as their items arrive before the big day they’ll be happy – after all, it’s the reduction in price shoppers are after, rather than a lightning-fast delivery. By offering those customers who don’t need their order straight away a cheaper, longer lead time on delivery, you can relieve pressure on your warehouse team and dispatchers.
Of course, when there are only a certain number of couriers and dispatchers available to help you get your products out, as well as all the other retailers doing Black Friday sales, there can be delays to deliveries despite your best-laid plans. We recommend discussing this with your chosen courier ahead of time and taking their advice on the best ways to combat this.
Even if your business does not sell products online, for any sale you’ll need more packing products such as plastic or paper carrier bags, and more packaging for your in-store displays. Look at your previous sale performance to predict the amount of extra packaging you might need, and remember that branded and custom printed solutions have a longer lead time than standard products.
If your store has a Google My Business listing, you may also have access to a feature known as Google Posts. Although it’s not yet available to all businesses, Google Posts enables selected users to create ‘posts’ with content that appears highly ranked in Google searches for their business name. If you have the ability to use Google Posts, you’ll see it within your Google My Business profile, and you can use it to promote your in-store sale to people who use the search engine to search for your business.
Sales events and opportunities in the UK
There are key sale dates in the retail calendar all year round. Not all of them will be applicable to every business, but with a bit of imagination, there could be opportunities for your business to encourage trade at an otherwise quiet time of year. Does your business have packaging and delivery solutions in place for each of these sale events?
- January sales – although it’s a Bank Holiday, these usually start on the first day of the year and last throughout the month, or until stocks last.
- Blue Monday – usually around January 16, this is said to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’. Retail therapy is a perfect cure for the winter blues, so there’s definite scope for retailers to boost sales.
- Valentine’s Day (February 14) – the annual celebration of love and romance offers huge commercial opportunity.
- Mother’s Day – the fourth Sunday of Lent, Mother’s Day sees consumers spoil the No.1 woman in their lives. It’s estimated to be even bigger business than Valentine’s Day.
- Easter – falling between March 22 – April 25, Easter is all about chocolate and confectionary.
- Wedding season – traditionally, most couples tie the knot over the summer months, between May and July, but needless to say, weddings happen all year round too.
- Father’s Day – taking place in June, Father’s Day is a great profit-making opportunity, although it’s still not as big as Mother’s Day.
- Summer holidays and August Bank Holiday weekend – culminating on the last weekend of August, the school summer holidays are a good time to target families and sell outdoor gear.
- Back to school – as the children head back for a new school year, families stock up on new uniforms, stationary, books and bags.
- Buy British Day – a relatively new retail event, Buy British Day happens at the start of October and celebrates businesses that manufacture their products in Britain.
- Halloween (October 31) – this spooky holiday has become more and more high profile in recent years.
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday – as we’ve already mentioned, this global spending bonanza happens straight after Thanksgiving and sees billions spent nationwide.
- Small Business Saturday – in 2017, SBS will be Saturday, November 25. Designed to promote smaller, independent businesses, it’s an event that’s gaining a growing following in the UK.
- Free Shipping Day – Many retail businesses now offer free shipping on the last day of guaranteed delivery before Christmas, to simultaneously highlight the cut-off point and encourage online orders.
- Super Saturday – as the last Saturday before Christmas (in 2017, it will be December 23), a huge amount of last-minute shopping happens on this day.
- Christmas Day (December 25) – the big one, for which the retail countdown seems to start earlier every year. Once the turkey’s been eaten and the presents opened, it’s also a big day for online shopping.
- Boxing Day sales (December 26 onwards) – although the January sales are still an event in their own right, most post-Christmas sales now start the very next day.
Leveraging data to help you get ready for sale events
If your business sells online, it’s likely you have a wealth of valuable data about your products and your customers that can inform the way you approach sales. Rather than just creating your sale based on what you feel is right, you can use actual customer behaviour to offer consumers what they really want, at prices that will still make a good profit.
Use data analytics tools to identify your best and worst-selling items, as well as the ones which have the highest margins. Take a look at products that customers add to their baskets but do not purchase, is it because they’re out of stock or is it a more fundamental problem? With these kind of insights, your business can build your sale portfolio with the items that are likely to get you the best return, and invest in packaging and delivery products to match.
Clearing sale stock effectively
Any retail business will end up with excess stock at one time or another, and clearing this surplus is necessary not only to free up precious storage space but to make sure you sell it without making a loss.
If you have a large amount of related items, such as various mobile accessories or items of stationery, consider bundling them together to create an enticing combo-deal at a great price. With the right packaging, carriers and shipping products in place, you can sell through a large amount of stock while minimising the amount of packaging you need to wrap and ship it.
How about giving low-value items away for free with other purchases? Consumers love a freebie so including a free of charge low-cost product, such as a pen or key ring, is a nice touch that will resonate with your customers. Small items such as these can also be easily added into larger orders.
If you sell online, try offering free delivery on items you need to clear, which will encourage your customers to buy more in a single transaction. Make sure you have larger boxes and/or mailing bags in stock for bigger orders.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on the calendar for any national or international days that may help you promote and shift your excess sale stock. These days, there seems to be a ‘day’ for everything, from National Coffee Day on September 29, to World TV Day on November 22. With a little creativity, you can tie in your sale offers for extra traction and exposure.